Having been a big fan of The Pixies and always admired the songwriting skills of Frank Black it was always a joy to spin those epic first few solo records especially the opening trio of albums from ‘Self Titled’ through ‘Teenager Of The Year’ (being a particular favourite) and ‘Cult Of Ray’.  You could never tie Black to one sound or style and as he progressed through his solo output he certainly wasn’t afraid to experiment or throw a curveball the listener’s way.
From those late 80s flawless output through the early 90s and the demise of pressing vinyl a lot of Franks CD output got lost and it’s great to see all these years later some of those more experimental records get a new lease of life on the old black circle format. (even if it’s not strictly on black wax) but you know what I mean.
First up this month is a double album version of the ‘Frank Black Francis’ album spead as I said over two records as part of a bigger campaign which will eventually see throughout 2021 no less than twelve solo records hitting the vinyl format and many being on vinyl for the first time.
Frank Black Francis’ also includes solo acoustic demos from 1987 ahead of the first Pixies Studio session. Plus, a second LP of revisited classic Pixies songs.  And as Frank Black elucidates: “It had come to my attention that a forgotten old demo, recorded by my own hand on my own boom box in my old apartment, had resurfaced and would I be willing to release it?  As a time capsule it seemed fairly interesting, but as a full release it seemed lacking for the customers; and so while I was in London, waiting for something to happen in my lovesick life, Keith Moliné and Andy Diagram, David Thomas’ Two Pale Boys, took me into their atelier and let me cry into my lager while they helped me augment the demo from the crypt.  At some point, I think I took off into the night and encouraged them to do whatever the hell they wanted; I think I may have been a bit of a drag on the session.  Being the consummate professionals they are (they had played on the Catholic’s ‘SHOW ME YOUR TEARS’ record recently, so I know they were…very good eggs) Keith and Andy really did not have a problem with this lost man paradigm, and I think their deconstructive and self-referential art methods are absolutely lovely.  Their treatment of ‘PLANET OF SOUND’ remains one of my favourite versions.” 
Just like a lot of the recent PJ Harvey releases they were accompanied by a separate collection of Demo recordings this ‘Frank Black Francis‘ was songs that were a work in progress and how a prolific writer gets things done.  From the opening ‘Holiday Song’ its billy Bragg inspired workings where the bare songs are collected with spoken musings left in as Black communicates with the control room.  Probably something dedicated fans will really appreciate and pour over but maybe not for a first time fan of music looking to get into the music of Frank Black.  Closing with the same song but with added brass and percussion for real insight.  The more out there jazzy leanings of ‘Subbacultcha’ might confuse less avid fans. However ‘Monkeys Gone To Heaven’ is intriguing and interesting.
The Pixie tracks will have wider appeal for sure but not something casual fans will gravitate towards.  but a treat for hardcore Black fans.
2005’s ‘Honeycomb is an album of Nashville collaborations with legendary musicians including Steve Cropper, ex-Presley guitarist Reggie Young, Anton Fig, and Spooner Oldham.  Unusually for a Frank Black album, it has 3 cover songs, including “Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day” by Doug Sahm. In many ways, another experimental record from Black where he really does stretch his songwriting to the limit and with the three covers shows his eclectic taste for sure. I always had a soft spot for this record as it reminded me in places of one of my favourite bands Green On Red especially on songs like ‘I Burn Today’. It’s a gentle album where the songs are given space to really breathe and grow and having not played this record for several years it was a joy to revisit.  It won’t be so long between plays that I’ve promised myself.
Finally in this round-up of releases ‘Fast Man Raider Man’, released in 2006, is a double album backed by a team of all-star musicians: Al Kooper, Bob Babbitt, Levon Helm, Lyle Workman, Steve Cropper, Jim Keltner, Rick Gilbert, Simon Kirke, Ian McLagan, Chester Thompson, Dave Philips and Spooner Oldham. The album includes, ‘Johnny Barleycorn’, ‘In The Time Of My Ruin’ and ‘If Your Poison Gets You’. An interesting cover of ‘Dirty Old Town’. ‘Wanderlust’ still sounds fantastic and the horn honking of ‘Dog Sleep’ would fit rather nicely into a set from Urban Voodoo Machine.  ‘Fast Man’ has almost forthy musicians contributing to its rich tapestry from the jazzy smokey tones of ‘My Terrible Ways’ to some countrified rock and roll of ‘Fitzgerald’ via straight-up pop of ‘Fare Thee Well’ it’s Black doing what he does best and twist your melon with his take on Americana and Stax as opposed to his Rock with The Catholics which just about offers something for everyone all dusted down with his instantly recognisable tones of that voice with his abstract and broad stroke lyrics.
there are moments of sublime playing and sometimes as you’re switching off a pedal steel break reels you back in.  Whist these three are classic Black they are something of an acquired taste and not as accessible as those early records nor as Rock as his barroom noise he makes with the Catholics which will no doubt be reviewed with the next set of Frank Black Releases but until then these will be most welcome as vinyl fights back and Frank Black adds more weight (140gms) to his canon of work.
To purchase Frank Black Francis’ go – Here
To purchase ‘Honeycomb go – Here
To purchase ‘Fast Man Raider Man go – Here
Author: Dom Daley